By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
The Town of Coaldale is seeking to optimize signals at the Highway 3/845 intersection.
During a regular June 14 meeting, Coaldale town council discussed the findings of a report on improving the Highway 845 and 20 Avenue intersection.
The intersection of Highway 845 and 20 Avenue in town has historically experienced poor operational performance due to its proximity to the intersection of Highway 845 and Highway 3. During peak travelling periods, vehicles queued at the intersection of Highway 3 and Highway 845 often spill-back into the intersection of 20 Avenue, creating lengthy delays, poor visibility and higher probabilities of unsafe movements by motorists at the 20 Avenue intersection.
Council had previously discussed the issue at their regular Nov. 23, 2020 meeting, when WATT Consulting Group had presented the initial findings from the first iteration of the Functional Planning Study that had been completed for the intersection.
Five options were presented to council: adding an additional right-hand turn lane, adding an additional left-hand turn lane, restricting left-hand and through movements off of 20 Avenue, restricting left-hand and through movements for west bound traffic off of 20 Avenue or implementing traffic signal timing optimization, which is administration’s recommended option.
“By adjusting the timing of the signals and the phasing, they actually were able to model it in their software and come up with a more optimized timing plan,” said Dustin Yanke, municipal engineer for the town. “Based on the current timing Alberta Transportation is using, we can shorten the cycle length and create a higher level of service for both intersections.
So traffic would be able to flow though (the) Highway 3 and Highway 845 intersection more fluidly, which would reduce the stacking distance and in-turn, benefit the 20 Avenue intersection.”
Yanke said currently the lights are maintained by the City of Lethbridge, and the town would need to talk with Alberta Transportation to get approval for the changes.
“Providing a functional and safety benefit to both intersections seems like a pretty big win-win from our perspective, and it should be from their perspective, so we don’t expect a lot of push-back. But there would be some co-ordination with Alberta Transportation.”
While the town could implement a combination of the other options in the future to help improve the intersection, signal optimization would be the suggested first step, and further monitoring of the intersection should be undertaken to confirm the expected benefit to the intersection before any more steps are taken to improve traffic flow there. Coun. Bill Chapman spoke in favour of options two, three and five, as there is quite a bit of stacking when turning both onto Highway 845 and Highway 3, and the town may see benefit to restricting traffic at certain times of the day. He called the signal optimization option as “inevitable,” due to the town’s growth. Coun. Roger Hohm agreed option five, signal optimization, seemed like a “logical choice,” but asked if the town would need to have a conversation with CP Rail on that, noting there had been issues at the Broxburn intersection. He spoke against option two, as unless there is a turning signal it could cause issues with visibility around larger vehicles.
Yanke said adjusting the signal phase wouldn’t have an impact when trains are coming, and Alberta Transportation would consider CP in their approval. For option two, the additional lanes would only be able to turn on the green turn signal. Bruce Nelligan, from Watt Consulting, noted a protected turning phase would see less of a benefit, as they can only go during that one phase. Coun. Briane Simpson voiced support for option fine, but would like to see the matter come back before council before any work is done, especially if the town does need to do any further work.
Chapman spoke in favour of eventually putting a right-hand turning lane onto Highway 3 from Highway 845. Mayor Kim Craig noted the town will need to direct that to the fall budget deliberations, as they currently do not have funds allotted for it.
Council unanimously passed a motion to approve signal timing optimization to be undertaken for the intersection of Highway 3 and Highway 845, with an updated report coming to council before any other improvements are done on the town-owned adjacent land.